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Our Spring 2019 concert was held in May, under the baton of Robert Dick and led by Claire Taylor, featuring talented Scottish soloist Mark Wilson on violin.  


The programme featured:

  • Auber - Le Domino Noir Overture;

  • Lalo - Symphonie Espagnole featuring soloist Mark Wilson;

  • Brahms- Hungarian Dance No 17 in F# minor; and

  • Dvorak- The Golden Spinning Wheel.

See our full programme of events.

Mark Wilson, receiving entirely justified applause after his moving performance of the Lalo


Although Auber's Le Domino Noir is an opera, the music was also used in a 1996 French film of the same name - described by one critic as "a silly story... but a very good performance all the same".

In the case of Edouard Lalo, he had to fight against his father’s disapproval to become a musician in the first place.  Then his compositions just weren't considered fashionable enough in Paris where he lived having run away from home to play violin.  it wasn't until he was in his 50's that compositions like this one became popular.

Brahms often compared himself unfavourably to composers such as Beethoven and ended up destroying many compositions without their ever being heard.  Many films have used his music extensively - perhaps most famously Grosse Point Blank, The Truman Show - and The A-Team.

Dvorak spent many years nurturing a love of the Czech poet Erben’s work before finally setting it to music in the Golden Spinning Wheel.  He first started to draft ideas when on a summer holiday in Spilville, Iowa (population 375).  Despite its size Spilville has a ballroom frequented by other great musicians including Louis Armstrong and Glenn Miller.

Dvorak's greatest pastime when not composing, or directing the National Conservatory of Music, was trainspotting.  Apparently this was banned in New York where he lived at the time - and was glad to visit Spilville where this restriction didn't exist.

More about the programme

To wet your appetite, here are some notes and links to previous performances of each piece.  

Auber - Le Domino Noir


Aubers operas were tremendously successful in the nineteenth century, but have hardly been performed in the twentieth at all. "Le domino noir", one of the most successful, clocked up 1,200 performances in Paris alone after its 1837 premiere, and was soon seen in London and in New Orleans. The story is a variation on the usual masked-ball romantic comedy: couple meet and fall in love without ever quite seeing each other, or finding out each others names. The twist to the plot is the fact that the heroine, Angele, is a novice at the convent of the Annonciades, about to take her final vows. 

Angele, the heroine of Auber's delightful opera, is similar to Georges from Boieldieu's opera and to Chapelou from Adam's "Le postillon du Lonjumeau" (whose aria I'm going to post soon) in the fact that she, being the heroine of the piece, gets not one big aria but three full arias in each of the operas three acts (just like her male colleagues in their respective operas; is this just me or must the star performer in a French opera have such a large amount of solo opportunities), one of which is presented in this upload.

The narrative is as follows: Angele has finally managed to make her way to her Covent which she celebrates (just after she has entered the stage breathlessly) in a superb showpiece. The aria begins with a long narration for Angele, as she recounts all her troubles (almost as if to remind her audience of what has happened in the last hour of the opera), set to a simple running string bass line over which the heroine recounts her story; this section is repeated three times, each times resolved by a more profound melody as Angele evokes God to her side. After a short transition, we pass onto the second allegro section where Angele tries to reinstate her vow to God not to fall in love and to renounce her feelings for Horace. Again, the accompaniment is rather sparse which basically leaves the singer very much exposed, especially considering the sheer amount of ornamentation employed both by Auber and the elaborations the singer must add.

Lalo - Symphonie Espagnole

Lalo composed the Symphonie espagnole in 1874 for the violinist Pablo de Sarasate, who introduced the work in Paris on February 7, 1875.  Bizet's Carmen is often thought to have ignited the French fascination with all things Spanish, but Edouard Lalo got there first. His Symphonie espagnole—a Spanish symphony that's really more of a concerto—was premiered in Paris by the virtuoso Spanish violinist Pablo de Sarasate the month before Carmen opened at the Opéra-Comique. And although Carmen wasn't an immediate success
(Bizet, who died shortly after the premiere, didn't live to see it achieve great popularity), the Symphonie espagnole quickly became an international hit. It's still Lalo's best-known piece by a wide margin, just as Carmeneventually became Bizet's signature work.

Although the surname Lalo is of Spanish origin, Lalo came by his French first name (not to mention his middle names, Victoire Antoine) naturally. His family had been settled in Flanders and in northern France since the sixteenth century. Edouard was determined to study music early on, but his father, a highly decorated military man who had fought for Napoleon, balked at the idea of having his first born become a professional musician. At the age of sixteen, Edouard left home for Paris, where he studied violin and composition. He decided to stay in that great music capital, and for many years he made his living there quietly teaching violin and playing chamber music with the Armingaud Quartet, which he put together to promote the string quartets of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. (The quartet was sometimes joined by
high-profile pianists such as Clara Schumann and Camille Saint-Saëns.)

Lalo didn't attract attention as a composer for some time, largely because he favored the thenunfashionable forms of chamber music. For a while he gave up on composition altogether. But in 1866 (he was then forty-three), he finally tried again with the opera Fiesque, which he entered in a competition
sponsored by the Théâtre-Lyrique. When his work failed to win, Lalo was so incensed that he published the score at his own expense; however, it was never performed. Then, in the 1870s, Lalo's fortunes turned after he met Sarasate and immediately set to work on a series of concerto-like pieces for him and other leading performers of the day. In 1874, Sarasate premiered Lalo's Violin Concerto (now forgotten), and that same year Lalo composed the Symphonie espagnole.

Lalo was no doubt inspired to write "Spanish" music by Sarasate's colorful playing, so different in style from that of Joseph Joachim, Germany's great master. Sarasate was both a virtuoso and a great stage presence—as Alberto Bachmann's classicEncyclopedia of the Violin concluded, no one else could
combine "grace, clean-cut brilliancy, and bewildering vitality in so remarkable a degree." Although Sarasate eventually premiered several major works (Bruch, Saint-Saëns, and Dvořák all dedicated pieces to him), Lalo's Spanish Symphony is the one that best reflected his personality, as well as the spirit of his
native land.

After writing a straightforward concerto for Sarasate, this time Lalo chose to compose something different—a five-movement symphony for violin and orchestra. It's a curious hybrid, neither concerto nor symphony, but as a character piece it's unsurpassed. And as an orchestral evocation of Spain, it's the work that launched a celebrated series of French portraits of its neighbouring country, including Chabrier's Españaand Ravel's Rapsodie espagnole. (In the meantime, Lalo turned out to be geographically restless, turning his attention within the next five years to a Russian violin concerto and aNorwegian Fantasy for violin and orchestra. And Sarasate, an off-hours composer, later wrote his own fantasy on themes from Carmen.)

The first movement of the Symphonie espagnole is the most assertively "symphonic" of the five, particularly in the way it develops most of its material from the opening fanfare. The beginning also introduces the rhythm of a duplet followed by a triplet, and this two-plus-three (and sometimes three-plus-two) pattern lends a Spanish quality to the music. The violin enters in the fourth measure—with the fanfare motto—and is rarely silent after that. This is high-wire solo material, memorable not so much for its pyrotechnics as its genuine melodic invention and rhythmic flair. The second movement is a scherzo, coloured by the same seguidilla dance rhythm that dominates Carmen's famous aria and sung like a grand serenade, with soaring violin lines over pizzicato strings and harp, like the sound of guitars in the night.

The central Intermezzo used to be routinely omitted (it was skipped at the Chicago Symphony premiere in 1900)—inexplicably, for it includes some of Lalo's most colourful, virtuosic, and decidedly Spanish music. (Yehudi Menuhin apparently was the first violinist to restore it.) The Andante is darkly seductive, with a violin melody as natural and indelible as folk song. The finale is all bravura and local color (the atmospheric opening, with its bell-like sonorities, is especially striking). The pace slows midway, for a hushed melody that Carmen could easily borrow, before the final fireworks.

Brahms- Hungarian Dance No 17 in F# minor 

Dvorak- The Golden Spinning Wheel

Composed from January to April 1896. The work is inspired by the poem of the same name found in Kytice, a collection of folk ballads by Karel Jaromír Erben.

While out riding, a king happens upon a young lady, Dornička, and falls in love with her. He asks her step-mother to bring her to his castle. The step-mother and step-sister set off towards the king's castle with Dornička. On the way, they murder her, hack off her feet and hands, and cut out her eyes. The step-sister poses as Dornička and marries the king, after which he is called away to battle.

Meanwhile, in the forest, a magician finds Dornička's remains and decides to bring her back to life. He sends a page to the castle to persuade the step-sister to part with "two feet" in return for a golden spinning wheel, "two hands" for a golden distaff, and "two eyes" for a golden spindle. The body complete again, the magician brings Dornička back to life.

The king returns from battle and hears the golden spinning wheel tell the gruesome details of Dornička's murder. The king goes off into the forest to be reunited with her. The two murderesses are thrown to the wolves.


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